Saturday, March 23, 2013

the second mrs. gibson

i don't typically call these field trips, because they are just part of our regular homeschool learning experience, but it's a term that many people are familiar with, so...

we took a field trip to a place just down the street from us, gibson house.

it's not the first time we've been there.  it was also just down the street from us in the house where we lived prior to this one, actually, within walking distance, which was especially useful for festivals and fairs and such so we wouldn't need to be concerned with finding parking.  speaking of which, they are having a may festival coming up on the 5th that would be an awesome time to investigate the grounds.  we won't be there, sadly, because we'll have moved to our new home across the country by then.  but anyway, we have had the privilege of trying our hand at grinding corn and pumping water and peeking into the buildings.  we've wanted to know and see and do more, especially go inside the house.

i was inspired to organize a field trip for members of our homeschool group primarily because of mary, a lovely docent from our first trip to cache creek.  she volunteers at both places, among others, and had mentioned the educational program available at gibson house.

the program is geared for third-graders, as that is the year the public school kids study california history.  as with most of the things we do with our group, though, grade level is just a target, because we have so many families with learners of all ages and siblings, too, and we leave it up to parents to determine if the experience would be a good one for their students.  so, we had toddlers through fourth-graders (by age) participate in their family groups.

i was hoping to see everything, but the docents needed a parent to help out with the scavenger hunt and laundry stations, so i volunteered to do it.  fortunately, i was able to hear quite a bit about the barn and blacksmith buildings, plus pop in for a moment to hear a verse of "mr. gibson had a farm" while a group shook milk into butter.

i immediately started humming "surrey with the fringe on top" from the musical "oklahoma" which my high school drama class put on

mary knew all sorts of details captured in this photo behind her. there was a foal kept nearby her mother, who was needed to pull the machinery along with the other horses. during breaks, the foal nursed, and the mare felt better having a watchful eye on her offspring. also, there was a woman perched on top of the tall seat, driving the team, because it was a good place to have a photo taken, and it was a big deal when a camera came to town.

foot-powered jigsaw

with the price of corn going up, not as much is being donated to the gibson house. nevertheless, there was just enough so that all the kids had a chance to turn the crank to grind the corn into a coarse meal.

mary describes how the blacksmiths would probably control the bellows themselves, wanting to closely monitor the temperature for their work.  did you know that the pointed end of the anvil was used to shape horseshoes?

wash like a boss


the hands-on washing station

the boys in particular loved cranking the wringer handle.

my mother told me that these washboards came from ohio, where i grew up.  now i'm intrigued. maybe she can find me one, since diana has decided she'll do the family laundry for ten cents per piece.

singing "this is the way we wash our clothes, so early monday morning" in matching aprons (loaned to the girls for the duration of their visit; boys wore kerchiefs and suspenders) added to the enjoyable experience
plenty of finger games to explore

after quite a bit of practice, and using tips from a much younger student, i actually got this to work, and i didn't even hit myself in the face.

because one could hear it from afar, this bell was used to signal the time to rotate stations

this was nestled among the many different varieties of scented geraniums, such as orange, lemon, and green apple

i wish i'd gotten to hear more about how things changed due to the "second mrs. gibson."  apparently, expansions to the house and the addition of columns were not the only things she insisted upon.  i think there might have been something regarding a marble fireplace, too.

fun facts i want to remember (and didn't get pictures of):

  • the gibsons grew olives, oranges, persimmons, and pomegranates in their gardens
  • portraits and furniture and heirlooms from multiple sources are housed in the main building.  we recognize many family names, as some of the first schools (and streets) in woodland are named after them.  there's a delightful thimble collection to be seen on the way up the staircase.
  • the lower kitchen cupboards were labeled with single letters.  it was pretty simple to identify which were for flour and sugar.  coffee was another.  we were nearly stumped by "p p & k" and "c v," but with just a couple of hints, the kids figured out "pots, pans & kettles" and "canned vegetables"
  • i don't like ironing now, and i sure would not have enjoyed it back then, either.  those irons were really heavy!
  • buttonhooks could be quite ornate and just as pretty as the boots that needed to be buttoned up
  • the task of emptying chamber pots would have fallen to the children, so it's reasonable that i would want my own kids to clean our bathrooms, right?
  • babies slept in the same room as their parents for quite some time so that parents could attend to them during the night.  it wasn't until they were older that they went to a separate children's room.  sharing sleep made sense.
  • tin ceilings weren't used just to look pretty; they offered fire protection
  • a large headboard was supposed to keep you warmer.  not sure how that would help more than wearing a sleeping cap, but they sure looked grand.
  • the concrete blocks out by the front driveway were for ladies to step up upon as they mounted sidesaddle on their horses
  • everything was reused or repurposed.  broken items were repaired or used as scrap material to make something else.  ladies brushed their hair one hundred strokes every evening to get rid of dust, and they saved the hair that came out into the brushed and turned it into art.  i am not kidding about this.  we saw some.
i'm sure glad we made the time to go.  we'll definitely be looking for experiences like this when we get to virginia, and i don't doubt we will find plenty.

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